Geneva : Cafés and café-bars
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Almost every corner has its café, and the following list is highly selective, serving as much to give pointers as to what to expect in each neighbourhood as to recommend these particular establishments over others. The Old Town’s Place du Bourg-de-Four, for instance, is lined with busy terrace cafés offering coffees, apéros and snacks to fuel hours of reading and people-watching, and there’s little point picking one out to recommend. Wherever you end up, you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere congenial to rest your feet and sample a little something.

Station area and Les Pâquis
Bookworm, 5 Rue Sismondi. Mini teashop within a crammed secondhand English bookshop, with tootling Thirties music and a faultless “pot of tea for two with biscuits”. Closed Mon.

La Bretelle, 15 Rue des Etuves. Tiny kitsch tavern just off the Rive Droite, a glitz-drenched haven from the mean streets outside, that pulls in plenty of camp, alternative young-at-hearts, especially for the live accordion and/or drag cabaret (Thurs–Sat nights).

Buvette des Cropettes, Place Gruet, off Rue de Montbrillant. Tiny atmospheric six-table wood-floor café-bar tucked behind the station, opposite the sunny Cropettes park. Closed Sun & Mon.

Café Arts, 17 Rue des Pâquis. Bright café-bar with a young, excited clientele. A pleasant slice of sleaze-free Pâquis. Daily 5pm–midnight.

Café de Paris, 26 Rue du Mont-Blanc. Very central café that does one meal only, but does it spectacularly well – entrecôte steak in a herb-and-butter sauce with golden chips and salad, for Fr.35. Otherwise, it’s a perfect place for down-time seconds from the station.

Café Vaudois, Rue des Alpes corner Rue de Neuchâtel. Simple plain tables in a simple plain room, with a bar at one end and big windows at the other for staring out of.

Cotton Pub, 4 Rue Louis-Duchosal. Small bar in the business district with more whiskies than beer – grab one of the comfy sofas for a long night in.

Old Town area and Plainpalais
Alhambar, 10 Rue Rôtisserie. Relaxed glittery bar behind a Rues-Basses cinema, with a yuppyish tone, plenty of tapas and evening DJs. Sunday’s laidback piano-brunch is worth checking out.

Café du Centre, 5 Place du Molard (022/311 85 86). A very handy Rues-Basses pitstop with terrace seating in summer. The smell of the sea hits you as you push the door and that’s really what this plain, very popular café-restaurant is all about, offering everything from 100g of periwinkles up to a dozen fresh oysters, aided by a huge wine list. Not cheap for dining, at Fr.30–50, but worth a coffee just to sample the old-style atmosphere.

Café Gallay, 42 Boulevard St Georges. Friendly neighbourhood café-bar opposite Plainpalais cemetery, attracting an arty young crowd of students and theatre people. Inexpensive food and shared tables add to the appeal. Closed Sun.

Café Mozart, 4 Quai des Forces Motrices. Cool split-level designer wine bar on the riverfront, regularly featuring live classical and jazz quartets (Thurs–Sat). An expensive menu promotes quaffing over scoffing. Closed Sun & Mon.

Le 2e Bureau, 9 Rue du Stand. Sleek postmodern bar, with sleek postmodern people draped over the sofas as deep beats rattle the glasses. Occasionally features live music or readings.

Flanagan’s, Rue du Cheval-Blanc. Top-rated Irish pub, hidden on an Old Town alley and generally packed with expats and Genevois alike.

Le Vespetro in L’Usine squat, Place des Volontaires. Graffitied upstairs bar-café, sporting a rough-edged clientele puffing clouds of sweet smoke to a background of heavy noise. A prominent notice bans the presence of mobile phones in no uncertain terms. Solid meals for Fr.10 or so. Closed Sun & Mon.

Chez Serge, Rue des Eaux-Vives, corner Rue des Vollandes. Quirky, snug little local bar, crammed with bric-à-brac, plants, candles and a fishtank.

The Flying Bike, 61 Rue des Eaux-Vives. Boisterous local drinking den, worth heading for if you’re in the neighbourhood and fancy joining ordinary working Genevois for a jar or two.


Bar du Nord, 66 Rue Ancienne. Dark, plasticky and filled with young designerish Carougeois carousing beneath murals by a local cartoonist.

Café des Amis, 23 Rue Ancienne. Oldest of the traditional cafés on Ancienne, full of atmosphere from an age now past. Join the locals for a trip down memory lane.

Café de la Plage, 10 Rue Vautier. Trendy alternative hangout, with long carved wooden benches and a homely, talkative ambience, regularly spilling drinkers out onto the street. It’s a long way from the plage, though.

La Marchand de Sable, 4 Rue Vautier. Loud, graffitied little nook with a rough edge, packed most nights.

Martel Tea Room, 4 Rue du Marché. Perfect spot to punctuate an afternoon walk around Carouge, founded in 1818 and still offering exquisite chocolates and pastries as well as good, inexpensive meals. Closed Mon.

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